October 21, 2007

If I Needed Any Concrete Evidence…

…that I have somewhere along the line become a stone Internet (© Algore) addict, the last half week supplied all the proof I need.

I lit up Mr. Inspiron at Zero Dark Hundred Hours on Thursday to find a blue screen informing me that I couldn’t come in, because there was something-or-other afoot that would damage my computer if I did.

“Bummer,” I thought.

I called Dell Tech Support, went through the usual Pomp & Circumstance you go through before you find yourself in touch with a human being in the proper department, and was dumbfounded when I discovered that the homosapien in question was, while obviously elsewhere in the world (it’s hard to say whether she was a Latina or a Bangalorian, and I’ve always been really good with accents, but I think that was because her English, diction and vocabulary both, was nothing short of excellent), was eminently understandable, profoundly knowledgeable and had a real ease about her, the kind that comes, part and parcel, with experience. Our entire exchange was more a conversation, including some mutually enjoyed humorous asides, than it was a report/response exchange.

Her diagnosis was that I needed to reinstall Windows XP Professional, using the back-up CD they should have sent me with my notebook. She also told me that when I’d purchased the computer, Dell hadn’t been including the XP disc among the others in the box, so she had to overnight it to me. She made the soonest appointment available (for she or someone from her unit to call me and walk me through the reinstall, once I had the CD), which was for Saturday Afternoon.

Aaargh!!!! I was contemplating up to 2 1/2 days without being able to get online from a PJ-friendly environment! I repeat, Aaargh!

I must confess to a certain degree of withdrawal symptoms, probably like a heroin addict “Jonesing”, only without the physical stress. To pontificate and employ more scientific language, well, let’s just say it sucked.

So yesterday, a Dell Dude, also uncharacteristically knowledgeable and with undeterminate accent, called and we did the thing with the CD, which entailed him calling me back a few times while the disc took its time doing its job.

After that, it took 2 restarts and I was back in business.

Being of the half full and silver lining persuation by nature, I will say that my computer’s performance has improved quite a bit since the CD and the Dell folks did what they did, it turns out that a lot of a slowness of loading, despite the fastest DSL available from AT&T/Yahoo!, was as much the fault of some sort of deterioration in my operating platform as it was from the drag (as opposed to thrust) of IE-7.

Boy, don’t I sound high-tech…

Back on-line, I was confronted by a highly daunting quantity of emails to reply to, emailed news/opinion subscription venues to work my way through and 2 1/2 days’ worth of spam that goes around the filters thanks to what is hopefully only negligence on the part of Blogspot (don’t blame “Desenex”, I’m a Munuvian and I use Word Press: They allow megaspammers to use their servers — the only spam that penetrates into my comment sections have Blogspot URLs, and they come both simultaneously and in large quantities). Blogspot is apparently hosting a movie sequel: I, Spambot.

Plus, I have two days’ worth of catching up to do as regards visiting the sites of many, many fellow bloggers, which for me is a priority pursuit after eating and sleeping.


Now that we’ve gotten the above “adventure” out of the way, the first thing I want to do is express my intense satisfaction at the election of Bobby Jindal as governor of Louisiana.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal easily defeated 11 opponents and became the state’s first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction, decades after his parents moved to the state from India to pursue the American dream.

Jindal, a 36-year-old Republican, will be the nation’s youngest governor. He had 53 percent with 625,036 votes with about 92 percent of the vote tallied. It was more than enough to win Saturday’s election outright and avoid a Nov. 17 runoff.

This guy is phenomenal, he’s one of those rare politicians who embrace the concept of what I tend to think of as “practice over theory”. He does stuff rather than expound upon it, and at the relatively young age of 36 he has won the respect and confidence of the vast majority (just look at the figures, and these published by Yahoo!, a highly liberal, PC client of the Associated Press) of Louisiana voters.

I lived in Nawlins for many years in earlier periods of my adult life, from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, from days when the Superdome and the Hibernia Tower were pretty much the city’s skyline to an era in which there is a full skyline of modern hotels and other high rises.

Truth to tell, I preferred things the old way — I so miss pre-high tech architecture (from back in the days when men were men and sheep were scared — sorry, my own sense of humor, as bizarre as it sometimes happens to be, rendered it impossible for me not to interject that particular semi-appropriate cliche), when an architect was someone who designed buildings via creativity rather than computer model and a mason was permitted to add artistic detail to the project.

But as usual, I digress…

Remember my admission re “half full” and “silver lining”s? Well, keeping in mind Hurricane Katrina’s introduction of profound tragedy to the Crescent City and much of the rest of southern Louisiana, with its resultant out-of-state relocation of so many residents (here, at risk of sounding like the racist I’m not — this is for any readers who tow the PC line rather than the realism one) from the low-income neighborhoods that produce gang bangers and related homicides and draw the bulk of public largesse, and the fact that residents of parishes like Orleans and Jefferson hold the same kind of sway at the polls that NYC voters do in New York State politics, my own interpretation of the Jindal victory is that:

Louisiana voters see their present circumstances as an opportunity to fix the presently (and historically) corrupt, southern Democrat “old boy network” run political system, and they’ve voted in Jindal, exactly “the man for the job”.

Bravo to the Louisiana electorate!

The next item I would have posted on had I not encountered my computer problem would have been linking this must read column by Diana West.

In my opinion, the most powerful segment reads:

The point of my talk — based on my new book, “The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization” (linked below) — was to explain why perpetual adolescence is not just a cultural drag, but also dangerous to our way of life. I argued that the leveling of adult authority over the past half century or so was accompanied by a leveling of cultural authority.

This brought on the age of multiculturalism, a time when Western Civ (like the adult) no longer occupies its old pinnacle atop the hierarchy of cultures. The multiculti conception of equally valuable cultures (except for the West, which is deemed the pits) depends on a strenuous non-judgmentalism. This non-judgmentalism expresses itself in a self-censoring adherence to political correctness.

Such non-judgmentalism, such PC self-censorship, is infantilizing because it requires us to suppress our faculties of analysis and judgment.

Finally, we come to one of those topics that’s near and dear, as they say, to my heart: Security.

Security screeners at two of the nation’s busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.

At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons — including toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private firm instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco.

How comforting is that?

Anyone who has visited here over the last couple of years knows that as a protection professional I’ve kinda-sorta expressed my doubts where the TSA, at ground level, is concerned.

From my own considerable domestic airport experience (speaking strictly as a traveller), my personal top rating for professionalism in post-9/11 passenger screening goes to Logan International — those folks have no intention of allowing a second 9/11 from taking off out of Boston.

Look, my air travel is haphazard, I usually fly on short notice and, if the trip is multi-city, I take things one-way by one-way. The security programming in post 9/11 airline reservations systems often forwards requests that TSA search the luggage of/wand the bearers of one way or “day or two before reservations” fares and/or give them “special attention”. I have no problem with that. All “out of the norm” situations should be investigated.

As a human being, I tend to look at issues with the inclusion of “pros” & “cons”.

That is pretty much why I thought I should bring up this product.

Privacy experts are concerned that a full body x-ray scanner the Transportation Security Administration is testing will produce such revealing images that they could violate Americans’ civil liberties. And some experts, who see no civil liberty problems, think the machines are too expensive, too bulky, and not needed given current security procedures at airports.

“We are not convinced that it is the right thing for America,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Liberty Program. “We are skeptical of the privacy safeguards that the TSA is touting.”

TSA, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, will be testing the Active Millimeter Wave body scanners at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, with plans to test machines at New York’s JFK and LAX in Los Angeles over the next few months.

TSA will also purchase eight millimeter wave units at a cost of $1.7 million to be used in other cities.

WTF is a “privacy expert”? Is this a bona fide job title or professional designation?

According to TSA, the process — a voluntary alternative to a pat-down during secondary screening — works as follows: A passenger steps into the machine and remains still for a matter of seconds, in two different positions, while the technology creates a three-dimensional image of the passenger from two antennas that simultaneously rotate around the body. Once complete the passenger steps through the opposite side of the millimeter wave portal.

The scanner’s manufacturers, L3 Communications, said the machine “penetrates clothing and packaging to reveal and pinpoint hidden weapons, explosives, drugs, and other contraband,” calling it “more reliable and less intrusive than pat-down searches.”

Yet “this technology produces strikingly graphic images of passengers’ bodies,” said Steinhardt. “Those images reveal not only our private body parts, but also intimate medical details like colostomy bags.”

“That degree of examination amounts to a significant - and for some people, humiliating - assault on the essential dignity of passengers that citizens in a free nation should not have to tolerate,” he said.

Before I comment on the immediate above, read this:

“They say that they are obscuring faces, but that is just a software fix that can be undone as easily as it is applied,” warned Steinhardt. “And obscuring faces does not hide the fact that the rest of the body will be vividly displayed.”

“Over time, the personnel operating this system will get mischievous, and it will be misused in ways that are very offensive,” added Jim Harper, director of Information Policy Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.


“Yo, Ralph! This guy’s wearing a colostomy bag!”

Haw, Haw!!!!

What a bunch of Bee Ess!

Who gives a xxxx?

This is a typical liberal pitch, based upon “what if?” — “This could happen, so we need to flee, capitulate or downright surrender, to do otherwise would be politically incorrect!”

The above paragraph defines those on the far left to the letter.

Thank G-d that we right thinkers don’t follow the same directives that are adhered to by the left.

Okay, that should more than adequately convey my own attitude on the subject.

My other concern here is that –

TSA chief Kip Hawley, responding to previous reports about screeners missing hidden weapons, told a House hearing Tuesday that high failure rates stem from increasingly difficult covert tests that require screeners to find bomb parts the size of a pen cap. “We moved from testing of completely assembled bombs … to the small component parts,” he said.

This is total bullshit (© El Toro). It is “in name only” security. Either you secure a venue or you don’t, period. If you own a dress factory, it’s okay to hire seamstresses who skylark as they work, but if you run a security department, contractor or agency you’d damn well better employ people who can stay focused and for whom you’ve spent whatever sums it takes to see that they are trained and prepared for every eventuality, in their area of responsibility, that might come to pass.

Ex: A friend of mine was the security director for a major tenant brokerage firm in the World Trade Center at the time of the first bombing, which occured on the front end of a weekend. When the markets opened on Monday, he had relocated all the brokers, etc to a location on Hudson Street and they were doing business as though nothing had happened.

Ex 2: When I was employed in casino security in Nevada years ago, I was fortunate enough to work for a security director who believed in training the #&*%^$#& out of his floor officers, investigators and supervisors (After coming in at entry level, I was all of the these as time progressed). We attended classes, courses, workshops, lectures, etc in every area that even remotely affected us and our responsibilities, and it all paid off majorly for the casino in a number of ways that would require either a book or an extremely long post to even scratch…

To continue, however,

Terrorists bringing a homemade bomb on an airplane, or bringing on bomb parts and assembling them in the cabin, is the top threat against aviation. “Their focus is on using items easily available off grocery and hardware store shelves,” Hawley said.

In My Personal and Professional Opinion (s), security concerns are paramount in both the Public and Private sectors, and costs should never enter into the equation. If you’re a guest in My House and tragedy ensues, I’ll put my life on the line to ensure that you emerge unharmed.


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2 Responses to “If I Needed Any Concrete Evidence…”

  1. BB-Idaho Says:

    Speaking of law and order: http://www.ktvb.com/news/localnews/stories/ktvbn-oct2107-segway.1930c7082.html ..which, since terrorists are scarce out this way, I wonder if the microwave backscatter scanner could be used on this guy’s head?

  2. Seth Says:

    BB –

    People in Boise drive Segways!?

    The only ones I’ve seen were on San Francisco sidewalks when they first came out, at a conference (used by the convention center’s security staff) and in a video where father & son Bushes were trying them out, in which GWB didn’t fare all that well.

    I must admit that whenever I think of a Segway I think of the Jetsons.